PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The Maine men’s hockey team tried everything Saturday night to shake loose of Providence.
The Black Bears scored first for a change. They played both of their goaltenders. They mixed up their forward lines. They tried throwing their weight around, leading to an endless procession to the penalty box.
In the end it wasn’t enough.
The Friars beat Maine for a fourth time, 4-2, this one ending the Black Bears’ season with a sweep of their Hockey East quarterfinal series at Schneider Arena.
“We were playing desperate hockey. It was do or die and that’s playoff hockey,” Maine defenseman Ben Hutton said.
The Black Bears took 10 penalties, resulting in a pair of Friars power-play goals and a 4-1 deficit after two periods. But the penalties revealed an aggressiveness that Maine carried into the third period. Maine outshot Providence 16-4 in the final 20 minutes, peppering goaltender Jon Gillies to no avail.
“We had a lot of shots, a lot of chances to bang in the rebound,” said Steven Swavely, who scored early in the third period to cut the margin to 4-2. “Just, Gillies, hats off to him. He stood his ground the last couple of minutes.”
Gillies, a native of South Portland, made 36 saves to send No. 9 Providence (21-9-6) into Friday’s semifinals at TD Garden.
It was evident early that this would be a rugged affair. Hutton was whistled for hooking just 49 seconds in. A strong penalty kill was punctuated by a pair of Martin Ouellette saves.
Soon Maine was on a power play and Hutton cashed in with a wrist shot that was concealed by a screening Devin Shore at 3:18. It was the first time in four games against the Friars this season that Maine held a lead.
“That was a huge kill right off the bat. The team was great there,” Hutton said.
The lead lasted eight minutes, Steven Shamanski fired a shot that Nick Saracino tipped past Ouellette at 11:20 to make it 1-1.
With Shore off for hooking at 15:01, Saracino struck again, whistling a shot past Ouellette for a 2-1 lead.
In the second period, Providence took control.
Derek Army sped behind the net and tried to stuff the puck inside the left post. Ouellette stopped it twice, but Army’s third whack produced a goal as Ouellette slammed his stick to the ice. It figured to be his last action as a Black Bear; Maine Coach Red Gendron pulled him for fellow senior Dan Sullivan.
After two penalties gave the Friars a five-on-three advantage, Ross Mauermann made it 4-1 at 15:36.
“Their five-on-three goal was very important. We had all the momentum going. We got a couple of penalties and they were fortunate enough to bury the five-on-three,” Hutton said. “That hurt.”
It appeared to ice the victory, but Maine wasn’t finished.
“It’s not over till the buzzer rings,” Swavely said. “We had them in their zone for a good portion of the (third) period.”
Swavely lunged to get to a rebound and backhanded it past Gillies to cut it to 4-2 at 2:45.
Shortly thereafter, the game took a bizarre turn when Sullivan came to the Maine bench with a broken lace. After several minutes of working on it, Sullivan never seemed comfortable and finally the officials ordered Ouellette back into the game.
The Black Bears pulled Ouellette with 2:29 left but couldn’t solve Gillies again. No. 19 Maine ended a promising campaign by going 1-5-1 in its final seven games to finish 16-15-4.
“I think the difference between tonight and (Friday) was we as a team got a little discouraged for a time (Friday),” Gendron said. “Regardless of what the score was, we kept clawing.
“If you let people get away from you over the first 40 minutes, it’s rare that you come back and win.”
Mark Emmert can be contacted at 791-6424 or at: